Yay Me!

Written by Karl Gellert, Personal Trainer at Infinite Fitness

Ask yourself something: why do you do what you do? It’s a question that I’m guessing there’s no real true answer for, or at least one that would vary wildly from person to person.

Since this is a fitness blog, we’ll keep the deep philosophical conversation out of it and centre our discussion around exactly that - you and your fitness.

How many of you hate the going to the gym? How many people reading this go 2, 3 or 4 times a week and hate every second of it? You’re there because you know it’s good for you and your health, or you want to look good for an upcoming vacation or wedding, or you want to live to the plucky ol’ age of 120. Whatever your reason is, it doesn’t matter really matter to me, that’s your business.

Goals are essential - not just in the gym, but in your life too. If you don’t have a goal, what are you doing? You’re just showing up, doing whatever and hoping something will happen. There’s no end point, no middle point, hell, there’s no point at all! It’s kind of like a 9-5; you just show up to everyday to get to the weekend.

I’m rambling a little here, let me get to the point.

The honest truth is that most people don’t reach their goals. Usually they don’t try very hard or they fall off a couple weeks in because they weren’t very serious in the first place. It happens. I’m not chastising, I’ve been this person too, a whole lot of times.

The other subsection actually tries, but doesn’t have the right blueprint (I’m looking at you celery and elliptical crowd) so like the rocketship without enough fuel, they’re kind of doomed from the start. That’s ok too.

But it’s you, the rocketship pilot, who I’m talking to here. I’m talking to those of you who have the right blueprint, have the resources and put in the consistent, hard effort and still come up short.

You watch your eating, hit the gym hard and suffer through this “weight loss” phase and see nothing. The 20lb goal you set seems so far out of reach and it’s demoralizing, if not downright depressing.

I’m going to hit you with a quote from one of the greatest minds of our time, Captain Picard


“It is possible to commit no mistakes, and still lose. That is not a weakness: that is life”

Did I write a whole post based on a Star Trek quote? Yes. Yes I did. But it’s my blog post and I can do what I want. And what I want to do is reframe this whole process for you. Because what you need to focus on is exactly that - the process.

The beautiful thing about goals, work, achievement and failure is not whether or not you succeed, it’s what you gain from the experience (yes, this whole post is essentially the plot of The Alchemist).

Allow me, for a moment, to take you on a brief trip down memory lane . When I started lifting at the tender age of 17, I really, really wanted to deadlift 225lb (which is two 45lb plates on each side of the bar for the unenlightened). When I tried, it was a mess. Teenage Karl had no idea how to deadlift, which was the first and I’d argue, largest issue in my way, but even if I had great technique, I was nowhere near ready for it physically.

My abs and low back weren’t strong enough to stay rigid through my torso, I wasn’t flexible at all so couldn’t get into a good starting position, and quite frankly, my grip was so bad I couldn’t even hold on to the bar. It never really improved during this time period.

Around age 19, I gave up lifting in general and returned roughly 2 years later. This was the beginning of when squats and deadlifts became the “in” thing and I was hungry to get back to it.

Within a couple months I did manage to get 225lb for a few reps. Nothing had really changed, I had no idea what I was doing, my form and overall strength was still bad, I was just older and stronger from working full time in a warehouse. At that point I started focusing on 275lb.

Man, if I could only deadlift 275lb I’d be happy..

I tried different programs, some awesome, some mediocre, some just weird and time consuming, but over the years the numbers on my lifts went up, which as a side note, speaks to power of attrition over knowledge.

I know you’re expecting me to give you a story of how I finally managed to lift it but strangely enough, I honestly don’t remember the first time I deadlifted 275lb or even 315lb. More on that in a minute. I need to fast forward a few years to get to my point.

What I do distinctly remember, is the first time I lifted 405lb (which again, for the unenlightened, is four 45lb plates on each side of the bar).

It was about 4 - 5 years later, when I was  25 or 26, and worked and lifted at the Canada Games Complex in Thunder Bay (big shoutout to anyone reading this from the Complex days!). I had been waiting for this moment for a while (this was also before Instagram and so I had no idea that everyone and their dog could deadlift 600lb), and to say I was excited was an understatement.

I’d been thinking about it all day. I psyched myself up into a rage, blasted Disturbed in my headphones (I was edgy, ok?) and put my full force into ripping that thing off the ground. And it, er, well, it slowly came off the ground. But rise from the floor it did, all the way to that sweet, sweet lockout!

I held it at the top for a second, let it down, rather loudly I’m sure, and sat on the leg extension machine. The guys I was training with and the other gym goers around me were talking but I couldn’t hear them, not only because I was deep in thought, but because my headphones were still blaring at probably dangerous levels.

For the next few minutes, I just sat there thinking. It wasn’t what I was expecting. Was this it? This was the culmination of my years of effort, strain and sweat and I felt… melancholy. Not sad, not happy, just kind of... disappointed.There were no balloons, no parade, no cheque, no scantily clad bikini models showering me with praise - nothing! Just me, sitting a poorly designed piece of equipment thinking “yay for me?”.

You see, during those years, I thought if I could just reach some numbers on lifts in the gym I’d be happy. Just like when I started doing “fitness” and I thought being in shape would make me happy. Or when I bought god knows how many things. And the truth is, it doesn’t. It won’t make you happy. No one goal, possession, accomplishment is going to make you happy. It will bring a brief respite but then it’s gone and you’re on to the next thing, whatever that is.

And that’s totally cool.

You know what does make me happy about those lifts? The time I spent in the gym with people I still call friends. The knowledge I learned. The people I met while I was at the various gyms I went to and worked at. The countless awesome and not so awesome ideas we tried (Justin, if you’re reading this, do you remember the plate pushes on the track when the girls hockey team went running through? I thought for sure I was going to get sued).

So many awesome things in my life, and I’d hopefully like to think other people’s lives, came from those times and those years.Looking back, that’s what makes me happy. Since then I’ve accomplished those goals and many more but it doesn’t really matter, because I’m always looking at the next one. Currently, it’s getting below 10% bodyfat because I’ve never really done it.

Once I get there I’m sure it’ll be cool and I’ll appreciate it, but then I’ll move on onto the next thing.Over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate the process. Maybe I don’t always appreciate it at the time because I’m human, but looking back, hell yeah, it was awesome. 

So absolutely set your goal. I want you to smash the hell out of it. Will that happen? Maybe, maybe not - but you will get an experience.

So stop hating the gym or find something else to do with your time because at the end of the day, life is too short to waste on things you hate. As recent events have shown us, you don’t know what’s going to happen.

The goal is important, but not. The process is. Because at the end of the day, once you accomplish your goal, the thing you’re really left with is you saying  “yay me”.


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